Friday, October 2, 2009

England and Scotland: H1N1 jump signals start of second wave

H1N1 jump signals start of second wave

LONDON, Oct 2 — New cases of H1N1 influenza rose by 50 per cent in England and doubled in Scotland last week, indicating the start of a second wave of infections, health officials said yesterday.

There were about 14,000 new cases of the virus, known as swine flu, in England, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said. The largest rises were seen in the north west, in Yorkshire and the Humber, it said.

In Scotland, the number of people contracting the H1N1 rose to 13,800, double last week’s infection rate, government officials said.

“It is steadily mounting, we are not seeing the sort of explosive increase, doubling week on week, that we’ve seen in some previous pandemics, but it is the start of the second peak, we are pretty confident of that now,” England’s Chief Medical Officer Liam Donaldson told BBC TV.

Donaldson said there was no change in the character of the virus.

“Most people get a mild illness from which they make a good recovery, but a small proportion get very serious complications...and some are previously healthy people,” he said.

“So we do have to be cautious about passing this off as a mild illness. It’s not a mild illness for everybody.”

The HPA said the number of deaths related to swine flu in England stood at 72. In Scotland, Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon said 10 people who contracted the virus had died.

“The potential threat from H1N1 remains serious, even if it continues to be a relatively mild virus,” she said.

Donaldson said the Department of Health had been given the green light from European authorities to start using one of the vaccines and expected to start administering sometime in the second half of October.

“We are hoping the increases remain at the present level and that will mean we can get the vaccine in before we reach the second peak,” he said.

Donaldson also said Northern Ireland had seen a much steeper rise than England. “Looking around the UK, Northern Ireland seems to be getting it much worse at the moment,” he said. — Reuters

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